When we last left our heroes, Super Toddler was living the life, shoeless at last and surrounded by bouncy castles. Super Baby was awake for once and chewing quite contently on his mom’s shoulder. Awkward Mom wasn’t faring as well; she was dealing with a slippery villain of untold potential for awkwardness. A foe of unfailing deviousness and resources. No doubt the scariest nemesis that Awkward Mom has faced thus far. She was trying to talk to other moms. Let’s peek at this recipe for disaster.
Super Toddler seems happy; he is bouncing in an inflatable house with about 5 other kids. They are reckless and fearless, bouncing into each other and the sides like supercharged ping pong balls. Super Baby, who has just started to crawl this past month, wants down, so I head over to the cluster of moms sitting in the middle of the room. This is not without trepidation, of course. Not that these moms aren’t sweetness itself, because they are. It is just that my luck with other moms hasn’t always been the best. I mean, my name isn’t Awkward Mom for nothing.
I sit down near the edge of the cluster and put Super Baby on the floor. He immediately starts to crawl away, which provokes the requisite conversation about when everyone’s babies started to crawl. Super Baby is about average, so I just smile and nod a lot. I do NOT mention that Super Toddler crawled about 6 months after the average and didn’t walk until the day before he turned 18 months, which is apparently the cut-off for “normal.” Super Toddler likes to live on the edge. While I am busy pondering these deep matters of baby competition, I fail to notice that Super Baby’s crawling goal is the power cord sticking out of the nearest bounce house. A stifled scream and involuntary lunge toward him from the mother next to me alerts me to this fact. I quickly grab him and plop him on my lap, where he loudly protests his lack of power cords to chew on.
The children parade through the mom circle and head into a new castle. This one has several openings along the bottom and a huge slide coming down on the right side. How one gets to this slide is a mystery hidden within its bouncy depths, but the children are determined to find it. Not a one of them over 5, these modern day Sacagaweas boldly head into the riddles of this labyrinth. Super Toddler, by far the shortest among them, even has trouble climbing up into the round door. However, he makes up for it in guts; getting a running start, he flings himself through the portal like a circus acrobat. There is no sight of the children for a good minute and a half; the castle appears to sway drunkenly, while shouts and giggles emerge periodically from its core. Finally, a little head appears at the top of the slide. This is followed by 2 sparkling eyes, a tiny nose, and the widest grin I have ever seen. The triumph this little girl feels is palpable. She leans back into the darkness of the bounce castle and yells something in toddler.
Soon, the top of the slide is cluttered with excited children, Super Toddler included. They careen down the slide with abandon; a tangled mix of arms, legs, and joy. They are tireless, as they pop up at the bottom and race back to the entrance. It is a continuous cycle of children, and it continues for about a half hour (a year in toddler). Occasionally, one of them will break ranks and head over to the mom circle. He or she speeds for mom like a freight train, stops short of knocking her over (for the most part), and excitedly relates something that no one else can understand, except for that child’s mom, who listens sagely. For example, Super Toddler comes over to me, steps on his brother, and tells me that I don’t need to worry; there are no ogres inside this castle. He jets away before I have time to respond, but I don’t think any response was needed, do you?
Eventually, the children decide to roam. They have heard from a newcomer (who was here 2 weeks ago at her cousin’s birthday party) that there is another room with even more bouncy houses and even bigger slides. Could it be? They are off, so the mom circle breaks up before I am forced to admit that I don’t use organic baby food; once in awhile fate likes me.
This new room turns out to be true, and it is as fabulous as predicted. Wall to wall bounce house; multi-colored palaces of play. The entire tribe of kids heads up a mini-rock wall. I am slightly concerned about Super Toddler’s ability to keep up, but he makes it to the top no problem. I leave him to this new wonder and take a tour of the room. Towards the center of the room, there is a mesh-enclosed blow-up mat, designed to look like a giant Twister board. I imagine the Twister aspect of it is for parties, and my suspicions are confirmed when I spy a huge spinner mounted next to it. Apparently, I am supposed to put my left foot on green. No child had found it yet, so I slip in with Super Baby. I mean, why should Super Toddler have all the fun? Super Baby has only ever crawled on the floor. Well, once he crawled on the bed, but he was way too fond of the edge for Awkward Dad’s liking and was immediately banished. Therefore, this buoyant mat is a brand new sensation for Super Baby; one he immediately enjoys.
Now, Super Baby can crawl normally; you know, one arm, then the other, alternating legs, that sort of thing. However, his favorite mode of transport is this weird variation of the army crawl where he doesn’t use his legs at all and hauls both arms forward at the same time. It looks like a version of the butterfly stroke. Well, let’s just say that inflatable houses have a lot more in common with water than I could have imagined. Super Baby takes off in this thing; a little Michael Phelps skittering away from me at the speed of light. Thank goodness this thing is enclosed. He bumps into the mesh wall, mumbles baby swears, and proceeds to spin around on his belly like a lazy-Susan. He heads the other direction, racing across the colorful Twister dots with a rhythm not until a skipping stone. He is unstoppable; well, except when he hits the wall.
I would be content to watch this forever, but Super Toddler has appeared at the door flap, his urgency apparent. He wants help climbing the rock wall. I patiently explain to him that I saw him climb the rock wall and he did just fine. I believe in him, he can do it, and all that. I can almost hear the heroic music soaring to the beat of my pep talk, but Super Toddler is unmoved. He shakes his head at my silliness and points to the other side of the room, the opposite end from where I witnessed his conquering climb. At first, I think I am looking at a mural. But no, that is just a trick of the eye because this thing reaches to the ceiling and is pretty much flat against the wall. A real, blow-up rock wall, and next to it, a slide with an angle I am willing to bet is only slightly less than 90 degrees. This thing is ridiculous; the Mt. Everest of bouncy structures. And, of course, the only thing Super Toddler wants to do. I try to dissuade him. I talk about all the princesses that live in the other bouncy castles. I tell him how much fun the Twister mat is. I urge him to try out the circular house with all the balls and the basketball hoops. I debate bribing him with candy, but I see it is no use. The superhero in him wants to vanquish this foe, this enemy, this air-filled adversary. He wants to master this mountain and rejoice in his boundless brawn and ceaseless capability. Actually, he probably just wants to go down the slide.
Whatever the reason, I leave Super Baby with a saner mother and assess this thing. Now, to enter the rock-wall part of the structure you have to enter through one of two round holes. Super Toddler bounces through one of them, gazelle-like. I debate for awhile and see no graceful way about it, so I swallow my pride and head in head first. My face pushes into the mat on the other side, while my legs fly straight up, tipping the “doorway” over, with my lower half firmly stuck and waving to the general population of the room. Delightful. I wiggle myself free to land at the bottom of what appears to be a sheer, swaying wall with tiny little foot holds (aka blow-up rocks) and a rope. I urge Super Toddler to place his foot on one of these and he laughs; instead, he wraps his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist. Laden with this squirming monkey, I attempt the first rock on my own. I quickly lose my footing and fall the whole 12 inches back to the doorway. Super Toddler is thrilled, so he starts shouting "again, again, Mommy!" The room that 10 seconds before was buzzing with toddler voices and occasional laughter seems very quiet, and I feel like all the eyes in the place are riveted my huge butt as I proceed to awkwardly (oh so awkwardly) get up and mount the first foot holds. It does not help that I can feel my pants slipping slightly. Please, please do not let me moon my new playgroup is the only thing I am thinking, as I propel myself and this kangaroo Joey plastered to my front.
I have many super powers; I believe I have mentioned this. I have never mentioned super strength, super agility, or super grace because to attest that I have any of those would mean I am super lying. Awkward Mom is no athlete, let’s leave it at that. So, my limits are tested around rock 2. By rock 4 I am convinced that this might actually be Mt. Everest. By rock 6, I have sworn off playgroups altogether and am debating mooning them all in order to be deemed a bad influence and kicked out. The rope is sweaty in my hands, my knees are shaking. I sway backwards dangerously; a cramp has developed in my right calf. I cannot fathom a worse villain that this bouncy house, except maybe Super Toddler’s Fairy Godmother, who we all know is really an evil witch in disguise. She Hansel-and-Gretel’s you with the Twister Mat and the sweet little bouncy castles, and then she shows her true hand….evil blow-up rock wall. I am nearly defeated when, with a larger grunt than I would have liked, I haul myself onto the top ledge.
I barely have time to savor my victory, as Super Toddler, who has peeled off my front like a contented leech, grabs my leg and shoves me down the slide. It feels like I am falling out of a plane. I bounce up and off the slide ever few inches, as if my unstoppable speed cannot be contained by this mere slide. Super Toddler passes me, his hair flying around, his face nearly bursting with happiness. I can’t help but give in at that point; give in to the pure exhilaration of going down a slide. It is glorious.
I land on Super Toddler, which he finds hilarious. We untangle and I reach out to Super Baby, waiting for us at the bottom of the slide, safe in the arms of another mother. I have reclaimed my baby and what is left of my dignity. I feel unstoppable; powerful in my ability to entertain my child, dynamic and daring for my ascent of the blow-up rock wall. I am energetic, able, and in control. I can handle playgroups, what was I worried about. All is right with the world. Until I hear Super Toddler calling my name. Until I turn and see him beckoning me, a tiny glint in his eye. Until I realize that he is peeking out of the rock wall entrance and merrily shouting “Again, again, Mommy!”
Oh yes, faithful readers, Awkward Mom had quite the play date. Lucky for her, they are only once a week, and lucky for us, she has given up on her mooning idea and intends to go next week. It is at a pumpkin patch; seriously, what trouble could they possibly get up to there? Well, we’ll find out in our next installment of Awkward Mom! Same awkward time, same awkward blog. See you then!